SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DR. MARK T. ESPER: Well, good morning, Madam Minister. It is a real pleasure to welcome you to the Pentagon today.
I understand this is your first bilateral visit in your new position, and we appreciate that you chose Washington for your inaugural trip. This, of course, is emblematic, we feel, of the strength and the value of the U.S.-German relationship.
The United States and Germany share a long history of cooperation in security and defense, and we appreciate that your country’s been host to American troops for decades.
And I might add, on a personal note, as you may know, I spent — was assigned to Europe many years ago, and spent my fair share of years training throughout Germany, whether it was Hohenfels or Grafenwoehr or Vilseck and Wildflecken. I got to know the German people and it was a wonderful experience for me.
As the largest non-U.S. contributor to NATO operations, Germany is an important ally in many missions around the world, this includes our efforts in Afghanistan to help the government fight the Taliban’s senseless violence. It includes the coalition’s work to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
To that end, we appreciate the news that your government recently approved an extension of your mandate there, and we look forward to your parliament approving this extension.
This also includes your support for sustained pressure and sanctions to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine. Again, thank you.
In this era of great power competition, Germany’s leadership is crucial, it’s needed more than ever. That is, a Germany that’s stronger and more ready than ever before. And that, of course, begins with investing much more in defense.
With the largest economy in Europe, we believe Germany’s in a strong position to make the investments needed to bolster the capabilities of and help lead the alliance.
I look forward to our conversation today, as we discuss opportunities to make these investments, to increase burden-sharing, to strengthen the alliance, to improve readiness and to recommit to defending a rules-based international order.
Madam Minister, thank you once again for being here and I invite you to make any opening comments as well, to the press.
DEFENSE MINISTER ANNEGRET KRAMP-KARRENBAUER: (UNTRANSLATED)
SEC. ESPER: We have a very good translator.
TRANSLATOR: (inaudible) secretary of defense, thank you very much for the opportunity to spend my first official visit outside of Europe with you today here at the Pentagon.
I am very happy to see you here today, and to do this visit with you, because, as you’ve mentioned, you have personal relations to Germany. This is why we also brought a long a gift for you, that is a bit of a souvenir, to remind you of your time as a soldier in Germany.
You also already mentioned that we have a strong friendship and good relations in the trans-Atlantic framework, and we do share common values and commitments. Germany is very much aware of these values and commitments, also because it’s this year that we celebrate, for the 30th time, that the wall came down and that the reunification happened. And without support from the United States, that would have never happened.
So we are very much aware of our common responsibilities. And therefore, I also want to make clear that we do stand by our commitment that we have made within the NATO framework, for example, when it comes to financial burden-sharing, to capabilities and to maintaining our readiness.
And I want to do everything that is in my powers, as a minister of defense and also as the head of the largest government party in Germany, to do just that. Because this is not only in our own interest, but also in the interest of the alliance.
(UNKNOWN): Thank you.
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